Nancy Pelosi is not an anti-Semite. On the contrary, she has been generally supportive of the American Jewish community and certainly supportive of Israel. It would be terrible if it were otherwise: an anti-Semite in the powerful position of Speaker of the House and second in line to the presidency after the vice president.
And yet her not being a Jew-hater is almost just as disconcerting. That someone like Pelosi would endorse in the upcoming congressional primaries and general election the proudly Jew-baiting anti-Semite Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar—she of the dual-loyalty canards, the “all about the Benjamins” trope, the serial defamation of Israel and promotion of anti-Israel policies—carries a grim message for those who care to hear. It is another demonstration of how, in today’s America, Jews have become not just the target of increasingly open and mobilized haters, but also the expendable minority for many supposedly decent leaders on the left eager to ingratiate themselves with the haters.
This reality had already been made obvious a year ago in the Democrat leadership’s response to the anti-Semitic memes being spewed then by Omar. Rather than forthrightly condemn her for her bigoted comments, the party leadership, apparently wishing to appease a progressive wing more than tolerant of anti-Jewish voices, sponsored a watered-down, generic condemnation of all sorts of bias.
And now Pelosi has just endorsed another newly-elected congresswoman, Michigan Rep. Rashida Rashida Tlaib, who has her own history of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias, and a continued agenda that does not bode well for American Jewry.
A similar calculation was reflected in the party’s response to Israel’s decision not to allow Omar and Tlaib to enter the country. House Majority leader Steny Hoyer, who had just returned from leading a delegation of other newly elected Democrats to Israel and assuring that nation of Democrat support, condemned Israel’s action as “outrageous.” (Omar and Tlaib had refused to join the Hoyer trip, choosing instead to have their travels sponsored by a Palestinian organization, Miftah—notorious for its Holocaust denial, its accusations that Jews use the blood of Christians to prepare Passover matzah and its promotion of anti-Jewish terror.)
Pelosi likewise condemned Israel’s stance. Pelosi and Hoyer suggested that it was somehow an unprecedented move by a democratic ally. But the United States has repeatedly blocked figures from other democracies from entering the country, including an Israeli member of the Knesset. And, aside from anti-Semitic statements, Omar and Tlaib have endorsed the anti-Semitic BDS movement whose goal, as articulated by its founders and many of its leaders, is Israel’s annihilation. Tlaib has also advocated Israel’s destruction more directly. Is Israel really obliged to admit people who openly declare they want to see the nation destroyed?
To be sure, the Democrat Party does, at the same time, demonstrate support for Israel, as in some important legislation. Most Americans are supportive of Israel, and party leaders pursue a form of triangulation, seeking to at once please those Americans and to please the haters. But in executing this balancing act, the leaders are in effect engaging in a moral equating of the bigots and those who oppose them.
Party heads have demonstrated their accommodation of the haters in other ways as well. The American institution most associated with anti-Semitism today is American academia. On the nation’s campuses, dominated by the left, faculties have widely joined in the bigoted demonization of Israel and its American supporters, have backed the BDS movement, and have penalized Jewish students and others who seek to defend Israel. College and university administrators, while typically resisting cooperation in boycotts, have also typically done little to counter campus anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bigotry. The actors in this institutional anti-Semitism are overwhelmingly Democrat supporters, and the party—once more prioritizing propitiating supporters over challenging anti-Semitism in its midst—has been essentially silent on the bigotry of the campuses.
Adding to the ugly cynicism of Pelosi’s recent endorsement of Omar is that Omar’s primary opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux, is a left-of-center Democrat with a distinguished personal history who differs from Omar on a number of important policy points, but perhaps none more so than his not sharing Omar’s visceral anti-Jewish animus and hatred of Israel.
Jew-baiting is evil, as is the purveying of any bigotry; and, as with any bigotry, it is especially dangerous when it is combined with political power. Almost everyone is familiar with Edmund Burke’s observations to the effect that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. How much more likely is evil to triumph when the supposedly good people do not merely stand idly by, but actually endorse the evil-doers.
Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian, and author of “The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.”